True emancipation requires a quality education
A month ago, I had the pleasure of reading a Letter to the Editor by Cheryl-Ann Griffin, titled “Atonement, apology, restoration”, and found it most enlightening and well-articulated. It prompted me to reflect over the month since Bermuda's Emancipation Day public holiday on the meaning of true emancipation.
To start, dictionary definitions of emancipate include “to free from bondage, oppression or authority”, “to liberate”.
While enslaved Black Bermudians were granted emancipation on August 1, 1834, freedom from the oppression and authority of former enslavers was not immediate. Many would argue that such liberation has yet to be fully realised. Bermuda’s enslaved citizens were emancipated in name only.
It is a well-documented fact that far too many Black Bermudians have been impacted by societal constructs that impede social progress, equity and economic advancement. Miseducation and systematic discrimination have slowed the advancement of Black people in Bermuda to a snail’s pace. This grim picture is mirrored across the globe, wherever slavery or colonisation existed.
Restating statistics on the health, wealth and wellbeing gaps between Black and White citizens globally is not the purpose of this commentary. My point is that the tool to close these gaps is education.
I call on families to emphasise the importance of education for their children; to recommit to supporting teachers and school administrators in creating an optimal environment for young people to learn, both at home and in schools. As the new school year approaches, we must invest all our focus and energy towards encouraging children and youth in our lives to value education and the opportunities it can provide.
“Regard man as a mine, rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can alone cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit there from.” (From the Baha’i Writings)
Of course, Emancipation Day should be celebrated by all Bermudian citizens for its historical significance. It should be a time for “atonement, apology and restoration”, as eloquently expressed by Ms Griffin. It must also be a time for assuring that opportunities exist today for all who continue to be impacted by the legacy of slavery and discrimination.
I remain convinced that access to quality public education is the key, and that “quality” is best achieved by using culturally relevant and, historically accurate curriculum material. Education on the history of people of African descent should be available for all Bermudians in order to enlighten and foster greater understanding of the conditions prevalent in society, past and present. Most importantly, young people need to see themselves and their culture reflected in the school curriculum.
Accurate global history must necessarily begin with the youngest and most impressionable among us — our children. This education must begin in the elementary-school years and expand in a developmentally appropriate manner through senior school. In addition, global Black history in community education settings with organisations such as Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda and Ashay University for Kids, Teens and Adults will augment the education process and support true emancipation and prosperity for all Bermudians.